Years ago, my mother-in-law gave me a copy of Michael Ende's novel, The Neverending Story, the text of which is printed in alternating red and green. I was grateful for the giver's recognition of my tastes and tickled by the two inks; but, frankly, I hadn't given the book a thought for ages. Then an online reference to The Folio Society's new edition sent me to my shelf. Yes! my older edition was still there, and it's now in the queue for a possible reread.
Picturing a World
Although bulb spears and even daffodil buds are showing in south-facing patches, we've still got snow on the ground here in the Berkshires. A little shivering among the flowers? With a bend in meaning from the original, this example of the paper engineering art of Ukrainian illustrator Yevgeniya Yeretskaya seems a perfect way to say goodbye, Winter—hello, S-S-Spring!
When I was a child, my mother had a rule that you couldn't buy a book unless you had first borrowed it from the library and knew you wanted to read and reread it. Well, as soon as I got wind of Shaun Tan's new book, Creatures, I borrowed it through interlibrary loan. The art work, of course, is terrific. I turned each page. At his comments in the final section, I started flipping back and forth. The more I got out of the pictures, the more I knew I wanted to study them again and again—and also to think more about what Tan has to say, not only about these pieces in particular, but about art and stories in general. Right. I bought a copy (from an local independent bookstore, natch).
I suppose I could save this for next year's February 14th post, but, nah—it's too much fun to hold back! While transcribing a late 19th C letter from Virginia today, I came across a reference to "Valentine's meat juice." An internet search immediately turned up an Atlas Obscura article on the very thing—turns out to be a tonic made of juices extracted from meat cooked at a low temperature to retain the structure of proteins. Isn't that an excellent detail for historical fiction? Or the little brown, pear-shaped bottles could lend themselves to stories about junk dealers or children inventing magic potions to go in one they'd found. Any other ideas?
Exhibition alert: I couldn't help thinking of Dimples for President and The Flapper Queens when I saw Frieze in the review article The big picture: jazz age attitude captured by Dorothy Wilding. Wild, Wilding, wilder, and fun!
In The Posthumous Papers of the Manuscripts Club (p. 481), Christopher de Hamel reports that Belle da Costa Greene " had a miniature portrait of herself painted in 1910 wrapped in apricot silk like an odalisque of the Middle East, explaining it to [Bernard] Berenson as showing 'the Belle of one of my former incarnations — Egyptienne.'" The artist, Laura Coombs Hills, was an exact contemporary of the real Jeanette Smith, which was enough to interest me in her. For her part, Greene was the great librarian of medieval manuscripts for J. Pierpont Morgan, an endlessly fascinating woman. And then I saw the portrait in its frame! Oh, that frame!
My copy of Little, Big (to which I subscribed in 2008!) arrived last week; and, oh, yes, it was worth the wait. The interplay of John Crowley's text and Peter Milton's art is just what they hoped: the illustrations are independent of the text and yet they illuminate. In fact, earlier this week, I woke up and saw out my window a Peter Milton landscape. My bedroom window looks up a field to a row of white pine trees. In the gray light of early morning, light snow had fallen and the scene might as well have been one of his etchings. When a book makes you see through its eyes, well, what could be better?
For those of us who love textiles, fashion history, and a good treasure story, who can resist The Dress Diary of Mrs. Anne Sykes by Kate Strasdin? Isn't that swatch in the middle positively Klimt? For the story of how Strasdin discovered an album of textile swatches by chance at a market stall, click here.
Almost a year ago, on February 28, 2022, Russian forces destroyed the local history museum in the city of Ivankiv northwest of Kyiv. It was a house museum and held many works by Ukrainian folk artist, Maria Prymachenko. Neighbors and staff managed to save at least fourteen of her paintings. By September 2022, an Exhibition of Rescued Paintings by Maria Prymachenko was held in Kyiv. You can read more about her in Flowers for Peace: The Spirited Art of Ukrainian Artist Maria Prymachenko That is Now Becoming a Symbol of Hope. For the darker undertow in her work, see Cannibalism and genocide: the horrific visions of Ukraine's best loved artist. If only flowers, birds, and the sun were army enough!